On the final swing of a cross-Canada tour for the Jewish National Fund, the Mayor of a small Israeli town only one kilometer from the Gaza Strip spoke at the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation in Côte Saint-Luc.
Alon Davidi, the Mayor of Sderot, has been travelling across the country with his Director of Resource Development Dorel Abramovitz in order to share the town’s story, as well as to raise money for a Zoo-therapy centre for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) victims. I was among the members of city council, along with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, Israel Consul General David Levy and other dignitaries at a cocktail with the Mayor. This was followed by a talk open to the public.
Mayor Davidi and his wife Nurit have seven children. Born in Be'er Sheva, he studied at the Benny Wolfson Yeshiva in the city and later at the Karnei Shomron hesder yeshiva. BA in Education and MA in Administration and Public Policy. He arrived in Sderot 22 years ago. He taught for two years at the local high school and managed the hesder yeshiva in Sderot, served as advisor to the Minister of Housing Effie Eitam and founded the "Headquarters for the Security of Sderot,"which worked hard to restore security to the residents of Sderot. He was elected to the city council in 2008 and since 2013 serves as mayor of Sderot.
Over the years Sderot has been pounded by missile attacks fired from Gaza. A town of 28,000 people against a Hamas-controlled terrorist territory which is home to 1.7 million. It is hard to believe that despite this danger and the necessity to consistently hide in bomb shelters, people keep flocking to live there. The Mayor estimated that by 2025 he expects the population to swell past 50,000.
The incidents of PTSD in Sderot are alarming – 80 percent of kids are victims. The Mayor spoke about one of his children and how the attacks affected her. It was the animal assisted therapy program which finally broke her out of her shell. The new Resilience Centre they are building will cost $1.5 million. When they arrived in Canada they were $465,000 short of their goal. Donations via JNF Canada are being solicited.
“It’s very tough,” the Mayor said. “Hamas wants to destroy not only Sderot, but all Israel.”
A captain in the IDF, the Mayor expressed the community’s gratitude to Israel’s military for protecting the city. “We continually visited soldiers and gave them food, clothing, everything,” he declared.
There is presently only one Reslience Centre in Sderot and it does not have the capacity to serve all the children that need treatment. “It’s not enough, it’s never enough,” said Abramovitz. “The city of Sderot is working alongside JNF to create another Resilience Center that can serve the entire Gaza envelope."
Much of the development that has taken place in Sderot over the past 15 years has been in spite of the efforts of Hamas to tear down their city and force the people out. "I think the fact that our city is growing and thriving is a counter to their attacks,” said Abramovitz.
Bravo to JNF for organizing the tour. It is too bad more Montrealers did not attend this interesting talk.